History - doping - asterisk performances - have we crossed the line?

Jul 10, 2010
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Ok - because of another discussion, I think we are ready to cross a line. I think we need to identify the "Dark Era" of doping.

Doping can now be said to be a matter of history. We have plenty of confirmation and validation. It happened. It was there. It was real. Now we KNOW this to be true. Doubters are the equivalent of flat-earthers.

Ok - we also know that doping has been around since cyclist began racing. There is no doubt of this - doubters are the equivalent of flat-earthers.

However, the IMPACT that certain kinds of doping had on the sport have brought us to a new point. I believe we must recognize this point. Up until the advent of steroids, drugs created only marginal gains. Even with steroids, the gains could be said to be marginal, although steroids were a more certain performance gain than what preceeded (speed, coke, ephedra, painkillers). With the advent of the O2 vector abuse, the differences were no longer marginal. As Laurent Fignon said, before 1990, the cyclist's efforts were extraordinary, and the doping was insignificant. After 1990, the doping was extraordinary, and the efforts were insignificant. [I don't have the exact quote, and can't find it. If someone could provide a link, that would be lovely.]

Today, while we, and I believe correctly, believe that some teams are still cheating the doping rules, the differences between doping and non-doping are sufficient that teams and riders who are believed clean CAN win races. Current doping controls, if they are honestly maintained, and if they continue to advance, should be adequate to maintain this environment.

Therefore, I propose that we label the dates from 1990-2009 as the "Dark Era". All wins during that period will have an automatic asterisk, at least in our minds, as we have no power to actually "Make it so", as Captain Picard so aptly put it. However, if we recognize some limits, here, we may be the first to set the parameters of the "Dark Era". And, we will be able, on this forum, to recognize the limits of our conversation.

I think we need to do this, if possible. Historical discussions are becoming extremely unwieldy.

As a sidebar sort of point - I would like to point out that the current dilemma of our sport is very much related to this history. It's easy to see, once you put it in perspective. Doping has been historically winked at, because it only led to marginal gains. When doping crossed the line, to become something more than marginal gains, the culture still maintained the winking attitude, but this generated significant differences in the sport. To return to a somewhat level playing field now required a significant change in the cultures of the sport, and of the people in the countries supporting the sport. That is HUGE, folks. REALLY big. This is important, because many people still believe it is the DOPING that is important, and we must realize that it is NOT the most significant factor in this equation. It is the IMPACT of the doping that is important. People will always take risks. As Tammy Thomas said, athletes don't care about their bodies, they care about winning. Athletes are always at a higher level of risk-taking than the general public. And, some of those athletes are always more extreme. Therefore, somebody will always be attempting to gain an advantage through illegal means. We need to remember that the important bits are twofold: we want to prevent the athlete from permanently injuring themselves, and we want to keep a relatively level playing field.

I think we, at this point in history, are doing a pretty good job of that, as a sport. When we recognize the "Dark Era", I think we can move beyond the anger and suspicion that has haunted us, as fans, of our sport. By recognizing the "Dark Era", we need to acknowledge that "doping" is not all the same. And, it will be helpful to recognize the cultural shift our sport is experiencing.
 
Too soon to say that era has ended, or to say when it ended (why 2009?). We still lack historical perspective to know if it's true that clean riders can truly win the biggest races, particularly the GTs.
 
Jul 25, 2009
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hiero2 said:
'...'Current doping controls, if they are honestly maintained, and if they continue to advance, should be adequate to maintain this environment.

Therefore, I propose that we label the dates from 1990-2009 as the "Dark Era".'...'

I think we, at this point in history, are doing a pretty good job of that, as a sport. When we recognize the "Dark Era", I think we can move beyond the anger and suspicion that has haunted us, as fans, of our sport. By recognizing the "Dark Era", we need to acknowledge that "doping" is not all the same. And, it will be helpful to recognize the cultural shift our sport is experiencing.
Seriously? I recognise that climbing speeds and extreme blood values have come down and that not all doping is the same but I'm genuinely indignant that you think it reasonable to even ask us to put our suspicions down.

Current doping controls have been proven, time and again, to only be capable of shaving the tip off the iceberg. EPO micro-dosing can circumvent the bio-passport. New tests always come after the doping the new doping technology. Don't talk to me about honestly maintained controls when there is no meaningfull retrospective testing program, when the UCI prevented USADA from testing at ToC this very year and the people at the top are the same ones who put promotion before the anti-doping rules. I'll believe the culture has changed when the few riders who speak out are supported by institutional changes which will prevent the same things happening all over again. Until that happens, it's going to be business as usual, whether the pawns who turn the pedals like it or not.

Edit: Sorry hiero2, that was too cranky. It is good to keep asking the questions and keep looking to see if things are improving. I'm just pessimistic at the moment because I believe the UCI has the handbrake on changes that would benefit both the riders and the sport.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Take away the ABP and any evidence for cleanliness it provides, and what do you have left?
 
Oct 7, 2012
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hiero2 ya dreaming

sorry dude, but seriously? clean sport today.
i bet they still have an av crit count of 49...all of them. daily micro dosing remains undetectable for a number of sport enhancing drugs. Those are only the ones we know about.
like every endurance sport you have to be playing the game to win.
 
May 26, 2010
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Dear Wiggo said:
And most think of him as one of the good guys. Right?
Till he wrote an article he was untouchable, now those, including Vaughters, defending sky/garmin are trying to say what does Ashenden know?
 
Jul 10, 2010
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I Watch Cycling In July said:
Seriously? I recognise that climbing speeds and extreme blood values have come down and that not all doping is the same but I'm genuinely indignant that you think it reasonable to even ask us to put our suspicions down.

Current doping controls have been proven, time and again, to only be capable of shaving the tip off the iceberg. . .
I would not ask anyone to put their suspicions down. But I believe it may be practical at this time to recognize that winning a race clean is again possible.

inbrugge said:
sorry dude, but seriously? clean sport today.
i bet they still have an av crit count of 49...all of them. daily micro dosing remains undetectable for a number of sport enhancing drugs. Those are only the ones we know about.
like every endurance sport you have to be playing the game to win.
This is both what I am proposing, and asking. CAN a rider win a race clean today? If they can, then the microdosing is down to marginal gains. While a micro-dosing climate is not desirable, it may be the best we can achieve today.

Benotti69 said:
Dr Michael Ashenden said the dark era is not over it just has a new guise.
Dear Wiggo said:
And most think of him (sic: Ashendon) as one of the good guys. Right?
Not only one of the good guys, one of the experts. Ok, he did say something like that. Exactly what he meant is open to some debate.

I'll tell ya what, can anybody put me in touch with Ashendon? If you can, pm me. I have no problem sharing my email or ID with those who ask (presumably for honest reasons) - so we can arrange a contact outside the forum. Then I will ask Ashendon the questions we are asking here.

From what inbrugge and esafosfina say, we may need to adjust the dates anyway. It sounds to me like we are talking a realistic start date of 91 or 2. I used to think it was 93 -- as that was the first I knew of a team with an enhanced performance. Through the many conversations and details here, EPO in 91 and 92 was probable, but also probably only a few riders.
 
It's the same doctors that were with the teams pre-2009.

It's the same enablers at the UCI who want to sweep it under the carpet.

Jeez, you can't even spell his name, Ashenden. How can you expect to be taken seriously?
 
Jul 10, 2010
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hrotha said:
Too soon to say that era has ended, or to say when it ended (why 2009?). We still lack historical perspective to know if it's true that clean riders can truly win the biggest races, particularly the GTs.
Perhaps you are right.


wirral said:
. . .
Jeez, you can't even spell his name, Ashenden. How can you expect to be taken seriously?
You don't have to take me seriously. No skin off my nose. Sorry about the spelling error!

Zam_Olyas said:
Explain in details how and why you think doping is not all the same?. . . .
While this has been covered before, I will briefly try to recap. Prior to 1980 (approximate), the only drugs were cocaine, speed (various), and painkillers. Somebody MIGHT have known about ephedra as an HERB, but it was not illegal, and using it from the herb form is much harder to use a damaging amount. Remember, I was a teenager in the '60's. I have 1st hand knowledge of many of these drugs - and I have seen the consequences of abuse. Coke went out of fashion probably as it became illegal to possess. As I understand it, speed, alcohol and painkillers were the significant choice from the 50's until steroids hit. None gives you an inherent performance boost. Speed helps you stay awake and energetic and burn energy, but it doesn't make you stronger. Quite the opposite - regular use and you will become weaker. Alcohol, painkillers? They might help a particular performance, but they are marginal gains at best, and dangerous. Steroids are slightly better, but they are still dangerous, with heavy consequences for regular usage - exhibit #1 is Tammy Thomas. EPO and blood doping have inherently a much lower risk, and a much much larger impact. Now we are talking percentage improvements that are much greater than marginal gains.

As example, as soon as I find it, I will point to the Fignon quote about it. Meanwhile, I point to inbrugge, who I believe was there:
inbrugge said:
epo was brand new in europe in 1991. discussions on the gossip rides were only starting to hear of a wonder drug that a few athletes had got their hands on. we were all keen ti find out more, but it took a number of years to become common. Testosterone speed and gluc-cortico steroids were all that most were taking, they were considered as low risk drugs that everyone was comfortable with. Road trips to Swirzerland were starting slowly late 1991 as no scripts were required for epo at the local Apoteek's..
Lemond was talked about as 100% clean in the peloton. We willnever know though, as there were no tests for cortico's or small doses of test at that time.
There are medical and scientific studies to support this, but they are legion, and I am not a physician or scientist to righteously pick out good support for this. However, I will point out, many riders have validated this view. This is why, in the mid-1990's, it became essentially mandatory to use doping if you wanted to compete in cycling at the top levels. Prior to ~1990, you COULD compete clean, and win. This is why today we have Tyler, Landis, and all the rest. Not because the attitudes were different in 1960, but because the drugs were different - and their impact was different.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Hiero: I asked this question and you missed it or ignored it. I'll ask one more time.

If you take away the athlete's biological passport, what indication do you have that we are out of the dark era?

Slower speeds? So slow noone can attack for the duration of the Tour on any mountain, but Wiggins puts 2:25 into 5th place in the final 53.5km TT?
 
Zam_Olyas said:
Explain in details how and why you think doping is not all the same?. And sorry my suspicion will not be down esp this year of all years after the so called past " dark era".
Don't need any details. It is really, very, very simple.

1. Golden rule - he who has the gold rules. aka the StarWars defense shield - 'Some analysts believe that Star Wars program also meant to outspend the Soviet Union, thus bankrupting its economy...'

2. Get a monopoly - Control the best experts (exclusive relationship with Ferrari) and the best substances (Hemapure) and live in the most relaxed jurisdiction (Spain) to get the best program

3. Be a positive 'reactor' - Some people have allergies to medicines, and some react better. This is, arguably, the only area where Lance was a racehorse and not a donkey

4. Don't rely on PEDs alone - get the best analytical equipment to monitor your levels; provide 'gifts' and or simply pay off the competition; threaten, intimidate and isolate the competition; pay off the UCI; avoid/delay OOC tests...

5. Create a diversion - Become cancer

All of the above are substianted by witness testimony and other evidence...

Dave.
 
Jul 25, 2009
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hiero2 said:
I would not ask anyone to put their suspicions down. But I believe it may be practical at this time to recognize that winning a race clean is again possible.'...'
Ok, I think it probably is possible at the moment for super talented clean riders to occasionally win a race. But IMO that is because of the unexpected progress the passport has made and some resulting risk aversion. That progress will be short lived if the UCI continues with reduced monitoring and fails to monitor those high on the suspicion index. The current quiet patch will be just that, a quiet patch. Until the pockets of highly sophisticated doping Ashenden talks about set the arms race off all over again.

By all means start the "dark era" in 1991, that coincides with the start of Hein's presidency nicely. He completely failed to manage the problem. Just don't close the dark era off yet. Don't close it till the UCI makes the changes needed to prevent it happening all over again.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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I Watch Cycling In July said:
By all means start the "dark era" in 1991, that coincides with the start of Hein's presidency nicely. He completely failed to manage the problem. Just don't close the dark era off yet. Don't close it till the UCI makes the changes needed to prevent it happening all over again.
In what way did Hein fail? What is one thing he could have done?
 
Dear Wiggo said:
In what way did Hein fail? What is one thing he could have done?
Hmmm... upheld the Festina bans, instead of shortening them...

...followed due process with respect to (not going against the Articles of the UCI and) hand-picking his successor...

...supported WADA...

...said no to the Lance payoff...

Pick one. Or, add to the list.

Dave.
 
Jul 19, 2009
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Dear Wiggo said:
Hiero: I asked this question and you missed it or ignored it. I'll ask one more time.

If you take away the athlete's biological passport, what indication do you have that we are out of the dark era?

Slower speeds? So slow noone can attack for the duration of the Tour on any mountain, but Wiggins puts 2:25 into 5th place in the final 53.5km TT?
Yes exactly. If the very fastest climbers in 2011 and 2012 are going up mountains so slow that the entire top 10 would have put minutes into them only 5yrs ago, then it indicates that EVERYONE has slowed down. In only 2 yrs (from 2009 to 2011), both Contador and Shleck slowed down considerably on big climbs. 2010 was one of the slowest tours ever. 2011 and 2012 were just as slow. Even the hero of this forum Greg Lemond wrote an entire article on it back at the time...
http://www.cyclingnews.com/blogs/greg-lemond/data-of-optimism

Besides, the ABP does exist and there is evidence that it has drastically reduced the incidence of abnormal blood profiles. Put 2 and 2 together and the Occam's razor suggests that cycling has become "cleaner". Add Asho's comments that "pockets of highly organized doping still exist" and you get just that.... pockets, not the entire peloton. Unrestricted EPO use on its own ended in 12yrs ago and since the ABP started taking effect there are probably no transfusions occurring during a GT anymore. It is simply too difficult to control the variables. The fallback is microdosing and 'soft' PEDs that were commonplace pre 1990 such as steroid hormone derivatives and corticosteroids.

Take a look at lots of ITT results and notice that 2:25 between winner and 5th place is actually a rather tight margin. It is most certainly "normal".
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Krebs cycle said:
Take a look at lots of ITT results and notice that 2:25 between winner and 5th place is actually a rather tight margin. It is most certainly "normal".
Bradley Wiggins disagrees, in 2007 he said this:
Hopefully in 2 years time [ie 2009] I might win the Time Trial and be a credible Time Trial winner because I haven't beaten someone by 2 minutes.
He was clean, thinking he might win the TT, not come 4th overall.

What changed between 2007 and 2009? Hint: it was 1000 days between June 4th, 2006 and 2009's pro tour season.

Wake. Up.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Krebs cycle said:
Besides, the ABP does exist and there is evidence that it has drastically reduced the incidence of abnormal blood profiles. Put 2 and 2 together and the Occam's razor suggests that cycling has become "cleaner".
The ABP exists and there is evidence that it is entirely beatable. Put 2 and 2 together and you soon realise that it is purely an exercise in public relations. The only blood values to be released are definitively suspect.


Krebs cycle said:
Add Asho's comments that "pockets of highly organized doping still exist" and you get just that.... pockets, not the entire peloton. Unrestricted EPO use on its own ended in 12yrs ago and since the ABP started taking effect there are probably no transfusions occurring during a GT anymore. It is simply too difficult to control the variables.
In 2001 LA tested positive for EPO. That's 11 years. Frank Schleck tested positive for masking agent this year.

Probably no transfusions? Right. Just weird spikes in the third week of the three datasets JV has released from his "clean" 4th place TdF and Giro winner.

And this is at the pointy end, where you would expect tests to be occurring. Head further down the field and the likelihood of a test diminishes to 0.
 
Dear Wiggo said:
The ABP exists and there is evidence that it is entirely beatable. Put 2 and 2 together and you soon realise that it is purely an exercise in public relations.
Of course it's beatable... if you stay within certain margins. Just like the 50% cap rule was ridiculously easy to beat, but it put an end to riders with ~60% hematocrit.

It's not just public relations, it's simply the best that can be done with the current science.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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hrotha said:
Of course it's beatable... if you stay within certain margins. Just like the 50% cap rule was ridiculously easy to beat, but it put an end to riders with ~60% hematocrit.

It's not just public relations, it's simply the best that can be done with the current science.
You only have to stay within certain margins for the tests. Outside the tests you can do whatever you like. They look at the Hgb and the off-score. The off-score (134) is almost impossible to hit.
 
Jul 19, 2009
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Dear Wiggo said:
The ABP exists and there is evidence that it is entirely beatable. Put 2 and 2 together and you soon realise that it is purely an exercise in public relations. The only blood values to be released are definitively suspect.




In 2001 LA tested positive for EPO. That's 11 years. Frank Schleck tested positive for masking agent this year.

Probably no transfusions? Right. Just weird spikes in the third week of the three datasets JV has released from his "clean" 4th place TdF and Giro winner.

And this is at the pointy end, where you would expect tests to be occurring. Head further down the field and the likelihood of a test diminishes to 0.
Yes, I understand that the ABP can be beaten, I have never denied that (funny that in the other thread you trolled me for referring to "science" yet the very evidence you are referring to here is also published in the scientific literature). However, if the ABP can be beaten, then please explain why the top GC contenders from around 2007-2009 are going minutes slower up HC and cat 1 climbs from 2010 onwards???

There are two possibilities IMO:
1. you can beat the ABP but you don't get the same performance benefit as previously, so you slow down a little bit even though you are still doping.

2. all of the best riders in the world over the past 3yrs are physiologically inferior to those from before 2008 and those that cross over that time point are all having bad seasons year after year

Possibility #1 is the opinion expressed by Olaf Schumacher, Rob Parisotto and Anne Gripper publicly.

As far as the UCI is concerned, the ABP probably is an exercise in public relations but as far as people like those I just mentioned and also including Michael Ashenden and John Fahey (WADA president), it certainly isn't. The ABP is bigger than cycling.
 
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